Inflammation is always a hot topic, it presents itself in many ways and usually it isn’t visible to the naked eye. The trouble is that most people only associate inflammation with swelling and pain caused by injury, however the truth of the matter is that the more important (dangerous) types of inflammation become chronic and we only fully realise we’ve got it when we develop things such as weight gain, diabetes, chronic fatigue, insomnia, frequent illness and gastrointestinal complaints. It is important to mention here that short-term inflammation is a normal process that helps the body repair tissue and fight illness. Sadly far too many of us allow inflammation to become chronic, deeper within our bodies.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation refers to the process in which our bodies release chemicals such as proteins and antibodies as a response to injury, infection or toxins. Usually this process only lasts a matter of hours however if this response lingers (and becomes chronic) it can leave your body in a constant state of alertness. Overtime this has a negative impact on your organs and tissues. Before you start to see the real trouble that this can bring us you may see symptoms of fatigue, fevers, rashes and mouth sores.
The good news is that a large amount of the issues mentioned above can be controlled by our diets. You have the power to control your own inflammation and by the end of this article I hope that you’ll also have the knowledge to act upon it.
Apart from preventing the aforementioned issues, creating a body with low inflammation allows us to have better brain function, less soreness/pain, increased energy and generally less body fat. Before we look at some powerful anti-inflammatory foods, I want you to see and understand some of the foods we consume that are pro-inflammatory so that you are able to actively avoid them when possible.
1. Alcohol. As well as a whole host of other issues that alcohol can bring us, when we drink our livers metabolise alcohol so that it can be eliminated from the body. Over time this process causes damage to the liver which can lead to fat gain in the abdominal area. Consuming alcohol is a completely normal thing within our society but this MUST be controlled to avoid chronic inflammation.
2. Trans Fats. There is a mountain of evidence showing that trans fats are dangerous for humans to consume due to how they damage cells and cause inflammation. Because of this they are prone to causing obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Trans fats are found in fried and processed foods.
3. Refined foods. Inflammation is triggered in response to high calorie meals that cause high blood sugar level spikes. Compared to whole foods such as nuts, vegetables, meat, or fish, refined foods often produce higher glycemic responses and often contain more calories.
Now that you are aware of some things to avoid in our daily lives, below is a list of the healthiest and most anti-inflammatory foods that SHOULD be the basis of our diets.
1. Berries & Dark Coloured Fruits. These dark fruits such as blackberries, cherries, pomegranates and blueberries are rich sources of antioxidants which can have a powerful effect on our bodies. These can Include faster elimination of waste products from the body and a slower blood sugar response from a high carb meal, effectively reducing their inflammatory effect.
2. Leafy Greens. Cruciferous and leafy green vegetables include kale, chard, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (just to name a few) are packed full of compounds that fight inflammation and help us safely remove excess estrogen from our bodies. This is important because the excess presence of estrogen can alter our DNA and lead to increased risks of both breast and prostate cancer.
3. Salmon & Other Oily Fish. The omega-3 fatty acids may be the most famous of all these foods when if comes to their anti-inflammatory abilities. Take note here that the greatest inflammation fighting effect comes from a mutual interaction between compounds found within omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols (found in nuts, seeds and plants). This means that food pairing is key when fighting inflammation.
4. Nuts. All nuts can help us in this situation but since you’re reading this I assume you have an interest in training. Almonds can help athletes especially due to their high antioxidant level. Consuming almonds regularly as part of your diet can help you recovery better as they’ll help lower the inflammatory response from your training.
5. Coffee. Hopefully after all of social media posts I’ve written about caffeine, you think of coffee as more than just a guilty pleasure. Yes consumption should be controlled so that we don’t build up a tolerance/reliance on it, but it is not to be avoided. The antioxidants in coffee are strong fighters of chronic inflammation. Keep in mind that the level of antioxidants in coffee reduce as it gets processed, meaning you’ll get a better benefit from ground coffee rather than instant coffee. As an extra note, decaf coffee has a similar health affect as regular coffee so feel free to drink both!
6. Probiotics. These types of foods help us to have a well performing gut, which in term will reduce inflammation levels and bring benefits such as better insulin sensitivity and improved vascular function. You can find these benefits in foods like sauerkraut, Kim chi, kefir and kombucha.
The 6 foods above will help you decrease the risk of obesity, arthritis, inflammatory bowel issues, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Some of the food groups above are easy to supplement your diet with if they are foods you usually avoid. Omega-3 oils are especially easy to get your hands on and are available for vegetarians and vegans too due to the use of algae as well as regular fish oil. As I’m sure you’ll have guessed, other things that can help us keep inflammation at bay are exercise and sleep.
Essentially the bottom line is that a diet high in inflammatory foods leads to a drastically lower level of health and I’m sure that’s not something you want.
Thanks for reading